Book Reviews, Tarot

The Light Seer’s Tarot (Deck Review)

The Light Seer’s Tarot is so gorgeous. My 19-year-old son, who never pays much attention to my decks, has commented on this one because it’s stunning. He’s especially drawn to that Knight of Swords.

Can I just pause for a moment to appreciate how awesome decks are now? I bought my first deck in 1999 and I’ve bought countless decks since, but the ones coming out in the last five years or so have really upped the game. So many great creators taking Tarot to the next level.

Anyway, back to this particular deck. It’s borderless and thankfully has no Roman numerals on the Majors (Roman numerals are the bane of my existence). Suits are Wands, Cups, Swords, Pentacles and Courts are Pages, Knights, Queens, Kings. The cards follow the standard RWS system with nothing renamed or extra. So it reads right out of the box but it’s also completely re-envisioned with all new imagery.

Backs are reversible.

Any “dusty” look is from the fanning powder I put on, not the design of the cards.

The little book that comes inside the box contains spreads: Light of the Day Draw, Light and Shadow Spread, Light Worker Illumination Spread and Calling in Love Spread. I went to the website for the deck and was delighted to find a free downloadable PDF called The Field Notes that you could print and pop into a binder or import into an app like GoodNotes and use as a tarot journal with this deck.

The differences between the book that comes with the deck and the PDF are that, while they both contain brief meanings for the upright (Light Seer) and reversed (Shadow Seer) positions, the book describes the picture, while the PDF gives you questions to explore that relate to the picture. There is also space to take your own notes. Both the book and the PDF contain an affirmation for each card. The PDF also contains a new spread, the Trust Fall Spread (my favorite of Chris-Anne’s spreads for this deck).

This deck seems particularly well-suited for meditation and, of course, shadow work.

5 out of 5 stars

The Light Seer’s Tarot

Chris-Anne

Hay House

2019

Book Reviews, Tarot

The Naked Heart Tarot (Deck Review)

Rarely is a tarot deck as stunning as The Naked Heart. The art style is most similar to The Wild Unknown Tarot, but with a lot more white space to let the cards breathe. There are also symbols on the cards to remind you what element or astrological sign the card represents.

The deck mostly follows the RWS structure (Strength is 8, Justice is 11) but there are no humans depicted on the deck (unless you count an eye for the Magician). Suits are Wands, Swords, Cups and Pentacles.

Most of the Majors have their familiar names, but The Empress and Emperor have become the Earth Mother and Sky Father, while the Hierophant is now the Sage and the World is the Universe. There is an extra card, numbered XXII, called The Naked Heart.

The backs are reversible and depict a crystal grid. The small book that comes with it has a section called How the Grid Works that explains how you can use crystals with your cards.

The biggest change from a standard deck is the court cards. Here they are animals, so the Wands are foxes, the Cups are blue whales, Swords are panthers and Pentacles are bison. Ranks have been changed as well. Pages are Innocence, Knights are Movement, Queens are Heart, Kings are Spirit.

There are a few spreads in the book: The Naked Heart Spread, Inner Child/Goddess/God, and New Moon and Full Moon Spreads.

The card stock is just about as perfect as it could be and the size is standard for tarot decks.

This deck would be perfect for somebody who loves the Wild Unknown Tarot and its shift from traditional imagery of people in medieval costumes and Eurocentric social rankings. It might look like an advanced deck, but it incorporates enough symbolism into its clean imagery that a beginner could start with this deck.

If you need people on your cards because your intuitive way of reading relies on the scenes and emotions of the characters, then this might not be for you. I know a lot of people read body language from the humans on the cards and there isn’t any of that here. Some of the animals are somewhat expressive but none of them is a person sitting on a sofa crying or positioned on a hill and fighting.

Overall, The Naked Heart Tarot is a fantastic deck.

5 out of 5 stars

The Naked Heart Tarot

Jillian C. Wilde

independently published

2019

Book Reviews, Tarot

The Everyday Enchantment Tarot (Deck Review)

There’s a lot to love about this beautiful deck, with the artwork being at the top. Poppy Palin takes the cards and brings them down to earth, switching out the medieval and Renaissance imagery with scenes that look like our lives today. The cards retain their traditional names. Court ranks are Page, Knight, Queen, King, and suits are Blades, Wands, Cups, Coins. Backs are reversible.

This deck is more serious than most about diversity. There is not only racial diversity and representation of sexual orientations, but there are also a variety of ages, levels of physical ability, as well as people of different socioeconomic levels, from doctors and lawyers to construction workers and waiters to the homeless.

various ages, races, and sexual orientations are depicted
Cards show people who have had a mastectomy or who use a wheelchair or who have Down syndrome or blindness.
Rock star, construction workers, a surgeon who works at a research hospital for breast cancer.
Lawyer, farmer, waiter, tattoo artist.

Theoretically, this should be one of the best decks of our time. However, the size. My goodness the size. When you open the box, there is a book printed in landscape format and the book is under the deck in two stacks.

The cards are heavily coated, don’t shuffle well, and even though my hands aren’t tiny it’s a stretch to even put my thumb below the cards and hold them with a finger at the top.

Everyday Enchantment compared to Radiant Rider Waite
Size comparison Everyday Enchantment versus Radiant Rider Waite.
The card on top is from the Tarot de Maria Celia, which is a joy to shuffle. Then the Radiant Rider Waite. Finally, the Everyday Enchantment. You can see how much larger it is than a comfortable size for me.

They could have been smaller if they didn’t have the ugly borders around the picture. But since the titles of the cards are in the bottom border, if you trim the borders off, you will lose the card titles and the images themselves differ so much from a standard deck that you might not be able to figure out what card you’re looking at if you do that.

five out of five for artwork; two out of five for being impossible to actually shuffle (If a borderless mini version came out it would be one of my favorites).

The Everyday Enchantment Tarot: Finding Magic in the Midst of Life

Poppy Palin

Schiffer Publishing

2018

Book Reviews, Tarot

Tarot de Maria Celia (Deck Review)

I don’t usually take to Marseille-style decks, but I really fell in love with this little deck. Tarot de Maria Celia is a reinterpretation of the Marseille deck by Filipino artist Lynyrd-Jym Narciso, who previously created the Vanessa Tarot. Like the Vanessa Tarot, this deck is small (close to playing card size) and comes in a tin. That’s where the similarity ends, though.

Maria Celia is a redrawing of classic tarot in a modern color palette. I realized, looking through it, that part of the reason I never took to Marseille decks in the past was the primary red, blue, yellow palette. Amazing what a difference color can make. The images themselves are redrawn but in a classic style. They don’t look modern, and in fact they have some ivory and cream distressing to look aged.

I totally wrote those numbers on the cards myself with a Sharpie because I suck at Roman numerals. If you hate the way it looks, relax. It will not be on your version!

At first glance, I thought the backs didn’t show reversals, but as I playing with the cards a bit I realized that, although the design itself doesn’t show reversals, the distressing gives it away if you look closely.

The titles of the cards are in French, so the Magician is Le Bateleur. Suits are baton (wands), coupe (cups), epee (swords) and denier (coins). Court ranks are Valet, Cavalier, Reyne, Roy. Justice is eight, Strength is eleven. The Roman numerals are old school — nine is VIIII instead of IX, fourteen is XIIII instead of XIV.

There is a tiny stapled pamphlet (the LWB, or little white book) that explains briefly how to read pips if you’re intimidated by decks without scenes on the Minor Arcana. I think this deck will appeal even to people who think they don’t like this style of deck. It got me so excited I wanted to try again with traditional decks, which I sort of gave up on years ago.

I took this picture before I broke out the Sharpie and attacked my cards. This is what they look like out of the tin.

I basically think this cute little deck is the most Tarot of all Tarot decks that I own. I absolutely love it.

Five out of five stars

Tarot de Maria Celia

Lynyrd-Jym Narciso

US Games

2018

Book Reviews, Tarot

Radiant Wise Spirit Tarot (Deck Review)

I think this is currently my favorite RWS deck. People always tell you that you should start with the Rider Waite Smith Tarot, and there’s something to be said for learning the archetypal cards behind so many innovative new decks. It helps you read the new decks right out of the box. But the RWS decks themselves aren’t always something we enjoy reading with. I do think this version has made some helpful changes.

The first thing you notice is the new color palette. For a deck that’s been around more than 100 years, this soothing antique palette is a better fit than some of the more garish colors we’ve seen on other editions.

The Fool in Radiant Wise Spirit, Radiant Rider Waite and Albano Waite, no filter
The Moon in Radiant Wise Spirit, Radiant Rider Waite and Albano Waite, no filter
Wheel of Fortune in Radiant Wise Spirit, Radiant Rider Waite and Albano Waite, no filter
The Sun in Radiant Wise Spirit, Radiant Rider Waite and Albano Waite, no filter

The second innovation is removing the borders. I remember several years back when people were talking on the now defunct Tarot Forum about using paper trimmers and corner rounders to remove borders from decks. I’m glad the publishers were listening, because I personally can’t get a professional cut at home using my arts and crafts supplies. Plus, if they’re published without borders (rather than trimmed) they are the same size as a standard deck (rather than smaller) so the illustrations themselves can be enlarged. This pulls you into the pictures more and helps them feel more immediate.

This is literally the most standard of decks (as in the RWS is a standard deck and this deck has changed nothing about the line art itself). Suits are Swords, Cups, Wands, Pentacles and Courts are Page, Knight, Queen, King.

Backs are reversible.

lily and rose backs

They come in a solid box (not the flimsy kind where you’re going to wear out the lid opening and closing it) with a small booklet written by Sasha Graham. The only spreads in the booklet are one card, three card, and Celtic Cross.

The card stock itself is as perfect as it can get. Thick enough to not feel flimsy, but not too thick to shuffle. Glossy enough but not plastic. They feel durable.

I would recommend The Radiant Wise Spirit Tarot for anyone looking for a RWS deck to study or read with, especially if the previous color palettes were the main thing turning you off from RWS to begin with.

5 out of 5 stars

Radiant Wise Spirit Tarot

Arthur Edward Waite, illustrated by Pamela Colman Smith, colors by Barbara Nosenzo, text by Sasha Graham

Lo Scarabeo

2019

Book Reviews, Tarot

The Nightmare Before Christmas Tarot (Deck Review)

I love the Nightmare Before Christmas Tarot Deck! It’s beautiful.

It reads right out of the box for anyone who’s familiar with the Rider Waite system. It also comes with a little booklet that includes a full-color picture of each card and an introductory upright and reversed meaning. There are three sample spreads in the back, named Eureka!, A Peek Behind the Cyclops’s Eye, and Blown to Smithereens.

Backs are reversible (and they’re gorgeous — not enough decks have backs that I like as much as these).

Courts are Page, Knight, Queen, King. Suits are Needles, Candles, Potions, Presents.

The majors are all beautiful and a lot of the minors are as well, but some of the minors are basically pips and, while they look nice, they’re not as inspiring in a reading as the ones with characters.

The cards have a glossy finish that doesn’t shuffle well right away. I spent several minutes separating the cards into stacks in lieu of shuffling because they were clinging to each other. They become easier to shuffle the more you work with them.

Anyone who likes Tarot and The Nightmare Before Christmas will definitely want to get this deck. It’s not perfect, but it’s charming. It’s illustrated by the same woman who illustrated the Dark Wood Tarot.

4 out of 5 stars

Disney and Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas Tarot Deck

by Minerva Siegel, illustrated by Abigail Larson

Insight Editions

2020

Book Reviews, Tarot

Tarot del Toro (Deck Review)

If you’re a fan of Guillermo del Toro as well as Tarot, you may like this deck. It illustrates the major arcana and court cards with images from del Toro’s films (or, in the case of The Magician, the man himself!). For example, The High Priestess is Nuala, the elf princess from Hellboy II. The Lovers depicts characters from The Shape of Water.

The booklet that comes with it is small but engaging. It begins with a foreword from Guillermo del Toro, in which he says:

My mother read the Tarot to anyone that would ask her — regardless of the time or setting. She always carried her deck of cards, nestled in a velvet pouch inside her handbag, and treated it with great care and respect. The edges of the cards were worn and stained from the frequency and familiarity of their handling.

Guillermo del Toro

Most of the booklet is written by Tomas Hijo, creator of the deck, and it explains his process of rewatching the films and selecting how to translate the imagery onto the cards. There is a little story about a Don Miguel, blind tarot reader from the town of Salamanca, who helped in the deck’s creation and who teaches some spreads in the back. This may be true but it has a mythical quality to it that may be exaggerated. I found myself flipping to the Hierophant to see if maybe I’d find Don Miguel there (instead I found The Master, the supreme vampire from The Strain).

Tarot del Toro is in the Marseilles style, meaning the numbered cards of the minor arcana are “pips” which do not show scenes of people doing daily life things. If you don’t read with pips and you intend to read with this deck, that might disappoint you. Normally I would say, “Well, there’s no shame in using the guidebook” but in this case the book has longish explanations of the major arcana, brief paragraphs about the court cards, and almost nothing to say about the pips.

Suits are Blades, Wands, Goblets, and Discs.

Courts are Valet, Knight, Queen, King.

Backs show upright or reversed cards.

Though the illustrations and color palette are in the style of older decks, the card stock is slick and plastic. They could take some breaking in before they’ll shuffle smoothly, as they like to stick together. Some tarot readers use fanning powder in cases like this (available at magic shops).

If you’re a fan of del Toro, you’ll probably enjoy the deck. If you’re just looking for a Tarot deck and you’re not familiar with del Toro’s work, this may not be a great place to start. If you’re ambivalent about his films or find them too dark, you’ll probably feel the same way about the deck.

3 out of 5 stars (mostly because the pips were uninspired)

Tarot del Toro

Inspired by Guillermo del Toro, illustrated by Tomas Hijo

Insight Editions

2020

Book Reviews, Tarot

Witchling Academy Tarot (Deck Review)

If you like Harry Potter or the magical girls anime genre, you’ll enjoy Witchling Academy Tarot. The book that comes with the deck is small but fun. It follows the adventures of Charlie, an apprentice at the Witchling Academy of Magic. The Major Arcana has a story about Charlie’s battle against Corrupt Magic, and it tells the Hero’s Journey through leaving home for the first time (the Fool) to completing the first year at the academy (the World).

Each of the Minor Arcana suits is a house that students are sorted into.

“House of Wands will learn how to channel fire magic through their wands and hone their wand-battling skills. The House of Cups will focus on the art of potion crafting while learning to enhance power with their water magic. The House of Pentacles has a full curriculum on healing and growing plants with earth magic. Last but not least, House of Swords Apprentices will be taught how to master their swords, using air magic to enhance their abilities.”

p. 1

Each of the suits has its own story to help you understand the progression from Ace through Ten. I feel like this would be great for a beginner, as it ties all the cards together rather than having a seemingly unrelated deck of 78 cards to memorize. The character of Charlie is central to the deck and this helps ground the story so we can remember what each card means and where it fits in the overall. Charlie also has a little blue and white parakeet familiar named George who appears on most of the cards.

Two of Pentacles

This is a friendly deck that makes the cards approachable. Each card has a Daily Incantation, which is like an affirmation, such as for the Two of Pentacles, “I can easily balance all my tasks with beauty and grace.” Then it has a Magical Meaning, which is what we’d usually call the upright meaning. These are positive and upbeat and have advice like, “Manage your time, energy, and resources well, and you will not lose your balance. You can handle any challenges that are thrown at you.” Then there’s the Shadow Meaning, which corresponds to what we usually call the reversed meaning. For example, “The Two of Pentacles reversed is warning you that you might have overcommitted and are being overwhelmed by your schedule.”

There is a short section in the back about how to use the cards for spells or spreads. It keeps the upbeat tone of encouragement. “All the professors and I are so proud of your dedication. There are no right or wrongs, and everyone who attempts a spread will pass their finals! So what are you waiting for?”

I’d recommend this deck for beginners, young readers (or young at heart readers), girly girls, or anyone who wants to see how the Tarot can be integrated with storytelling. This deck follows the Rider Waite Smith (RWS) meanings and the backs are reversible.

five out of five stars

Witchling Academy Tarot

Pamela Chen, illustrated by Mindy Zhang

Llewellyn Publications

2021

Book Reviews, Tarot

Dark Wood Tarot (Deck Review)

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a tarot book and deck as beautiful as the Dark Wood Tarot. The last few years, Llewellyn has been printing the companion books in full color but this is the first one I’ve opened that has full page illustrations of the art rather than reproductions of the cards. This makes perusing the book feel like settling in with your favorite collection of fairy tales. The book and deck follow a character (the Shadow Witch) on her journey through the Dark Wood. It’s intended for use in shadow work, and the write-ups on each card include a description, a meaning, and a shadow (which corresponds roughly to what most books call reversals).

The artwork is gorgeous but I have to admit that I prefer the cards that depict humans. I find the animal cards underwhelming. Suits are swords, wands, cups and pentacles, though the pentacles look like apples that have been sliced in half. Courts are page, knight, queen, king. Swords are air, wands are fire. Strength is 8, Justice its 11. If you have any experience with RWS decks, you can read this one out of the box. The book is fantastic, so if you’re not experienced with tarot at all this set will be all you need to get started.

The book contains seven spreads, with names like the Shadow Self Spread and the Awaken Inner Magic Spread.

This is easily the nicest deck and book set I’ve ever bought. I want to shove the rest of my decks aside and spend some real time with this one.

The beautiful companion book
Cards with people (my favorite)
Cards with animals (not a fan)
pentacles that look like apples sliced across the middle (not sure what to think)

5 out of 5 stars

Dark Wood Tarot

Sasha Graham

art by Abigail Larson

Llewellyn Publications, 2020

Book Reviews, Tarot

ViceVersa Tarot (deck review)

The ViceVersa Tarot is unique in that the cards have no backs. Or, rather, instead of having an image that’s the same on the back of every card, each card has an image on its reverse side that is the reverse of the image on its face. In some cards the back looks like a night scene with the front looking like daytime. In others the backs reveal characters or objects out of the line of sight on the front.

The full-color book that goes with this deck has illustrations of each and calls them “this side” and “that side.”

Aside from the novelty aspect, this is a fairly standard RWS clone. Suits are chalices, pentacles, wands and swords. Courts are knave, knight, queen, king. Strength is 8, Justice is 11. Artwork is pseudo-medieval European and does not depict modern or diverse characters or situations. Honestly, I like the concept more than I like the artwork. I wish I connected with the illustrations more.

This is the kind of deck that could look impressive in a reading. My personal preference is to deal all the cards with “that side” up and flip them during the reading to reveal “this side.” This is because “that side” is often the back and the dark side so when you turn it over you’re revealing the front and brightening the spread. Like activating or turning on the cards.

5 out of 5 stars for the concept; 3 out of 5 stars for the artwork

ViceVersa Tarot

Massimiliano Filadoro and Lunaea Weatherstone

artwork by Davide Corsi

Lo Scarabeo, 2017